Friday, June 10, 2016

Editing Tips: Under the POV Microscope

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Point of View (POV) isn’t that hard once you get the trick of it. It’s just the mastering of the trick that can prove difficult. ;-) But once a couple key elements have been identified, it’s simple to correct the errors and move forward with your story.

Be aware of head-hopping. You’ve probably heard this talked about in the escalators and elevators, in the clusters of attendees and lunch tables, not to mention classes—at conferences: don’t head-hop. Head-hopping is the big picture term. The root cause of so much evil in your novels. (Just kidding…sorta) Once you learn what to spot, it’s easy to see head-hopping in the future. Example: You’re in Mary’s head. Hearing her thoughts. Having a view from what she is seeing. She’s talking with Amy. When you are in Mary’s head, you can’t hear or know what Amy is thinking. You can only interrupt her body language and listen to her dialogue. Head-hopping occurs when we leave Mary’s head and jump into Amy’s thoughts without there being any break in the physical story layout on the page. It’s the most jarring and unsettling event for a reader.

Assumption is your friend. It’s actually your enemy in real life, but in fiction, your characters will have to assume a lot. Why? Because they don’t know what their fellow characters are thinking. A subtle shift of POV can come when the author makes a statement about a character whose head we are not in that scene. These statements can be as simple as “the light was too bright for her eyes”. No, no, no. It’s so tempting to make these comments and most readers might not pick up on it, but once you’re shown the problem, you tend to notice it glaring all the brighter. If the light was “too bright for her eyes” that means she is thinking that it is too bright. If we aren’t in her head, we cannot know her thoughts. However, what we can do is see her reaction. What would the character do if the sun was too bright? She’d squint. And that is definitely something your POV character can notice and mention in passing to the reader.  These little comments are the ones most likely to slip past us. The ones most likely to squirm their way into the story and start to take over.

The key to spotting problem POV areas is to think in terms of, “is this a thought or an action that my character might do?” If it’s not the POV character and it’s something you would stand on the street corner and think, it can’t be in your book—unless of course your POV character is a mind reader. Which, I don’t know…maybe he/she is. ;-) So flip the thought on its head and do an action/reaction: what is the action that your non-POV character is thinking about and what would their reaction be to that thought? Like squinting in the bright sun.

Action is always more powerful than thought. It’s an extension—sometimes involuntary action of their thought. Like a knee-jerk reaction, it can’t be stopped or helped. And how your POV character interprets this becomes a fascinating and fun dance for the reader as the characters clumsily tango across the page.

POV only has to be as difficult as you want to make it. Once the key points are exposed to the light of an editor’s eye, it becomes easier to find those problem areas and edit them clean—usually with minimal work at best.


What are your biggest POV struggles?

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Casey Herringshaw is a homeschool graduate and has been writing since high school. She lives in colorful Colorado where she gets to live her dream stalking--er--visiting with her favorite CO authors. 

2 comments:

Heather Marsten said...

Finding a way to keep first person point of view in my memoir interesting. I have others in my life tell stories to me of their past (as I want to incorporate the past), journal entries allow me a different voice, inner dialogue, dreams - conversations. One of the hardest things is trying to figure out a way to describe myself that doesn't involve looking in a mirror. Thank you for this article. Even in first person I have to watch out for head hopping and knowing too much.

Killtan Roy said...

What might the character do if the sun was too splendid? She'd squint. What's more, that is certainly something your POV character can notice and say in going to the peruse. These little remarks are the ones destined to slip past us. The ones well on the way to squirm their way into the story and begin to take once again. My name is Killtan I'm a professional resume writers I don't have the foggiest idea possibly he/she is So flip the idea on its head and do an activity/response what is the activity that your non character is pondering and what might their response be to that idea Like squinting in the splendid sun.